Legal Education: Strategies for Learning and Teaching

Submitting Institution

University of Greenwich

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education

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Summary of the impact

  1. New methodology for researching and teaching human rights law and empirical research used in biosecurity law
  2. Pioneering a human rights model of disability through an international project leading to development of strategies for monitoring law and training future legal practitioners in disability rights
  3. Developing a model for pro bono undergraduate research projects in the local community
  4. A student feedback guide and model adaptable across disciplines which has been referred to in law schools
  5. New visual teaching aids - accessed by the global law tutor and legal education market
  6. An innovative use of mobile phone voting technology.

Underpinning research

The dominant theme for 2008-13 has been the development of innovative strategies for engagement and critical evaluation in the undergraduate curriculum.

Deep learning and evaluation of the law through empirical research
Angela Laycock's research into the jurisprudence and pedagogy of the Southern African Women's Lawyers (1996) led her to adopt their grounded theory approach: "the law can be properly evaluated...only if, in addition to understanding the intentions and the rationale behind the law, one also has an insight into the consequences of the law on individuals."(Maboreke, M, 1990). As a member of the Dfid Pass Harmonisation of African Phytosanitary Legislation project (2003) she began the development of a methodology for monitoring biosecurity law, which she further developed with Black and Outhwaite [3.3] in response to the Nuffield Foundation (April 2004) Inquiry on Empirical Research in Law's identification of a "lack of capacity to undertake empirical research within the field of law".

Laycock`s main research into the training of empirical legal researchers, however, has been in Human Rights Law, a new field in UK Law as a result of the Human Rights Act 1998. She devised a research-oriented methodology suitable for traditional undergraduate class sizes, which has influenced the teaching of human rights in her own and other law schools [3.2]. It is, however, her work in incorporating research-based learning into the undergraduate curriculum which has led to Greenwich's involvement in international and local community projects which have facilitated the monitoring of disability law and promoted a human rights model of disability [3.1].

Laycock's opportunity to trial the new teaching methodology came with UN Resolution 2000/51 "to examine measures to strengthen the protection and monitoring of human rights of persons with disability" and Disability Rights Promotion International's project, Building a human rights monitoring system in the field of disability. Laycock with David Yarrow of Osgoode Hall, Toronto, piloted the first DRPI Legal Education and Research Project (2003-7) linking Law Schools, firstly, to collect data on the effectiveness of legislation in promoting the rights of disabled people in the UK and North America respectively, and secondly, to provide Law students with the skills to work as part of a research project team through practical experience. The expertise gained in disability law led to three local community projects (2008-13) including the Pro Bono Vulnerable Witness Project.

Strategies for student engagement in the undergraduate curriculum
Carol Withey's research is underpinned by the desire to encourage student engagement with all facets of a law course. She developed a feedback guide for law students and a process to ensure student participation in feedback, where students assess their work against learning outcomes, compare the teacher's comments with their own, and estimate their grade before they receive it. The `feed-forwarding' task gets course points [3.4].

Withey has developed a unique visual aid to legal teaching, using animated "Lego" characters to illustrate key principles in criminal law. A series of Lego Law films for use by law schools has since been produced.

She has added to the body of research in the use of electronic voting systems (EVS) through her pioneering use of mobile technology (PollEverywhere) as opposed to the normal system of hand- held clickers. Withey used both systems during lectures and then researched student preferences and the pedagogical value of using EVS in teaching. This research has been presented at conferences at the universities of Warwick (2011) and Edinburgh (2010) and disseminated via HEA-funded specialist interest group, Engaging Students Through In-Class Technology - ESTICT [3.5].

References to the research

**3.1 Laycock, A. (2011). Price V UK: The Importance Of Human Rights Principles In Promoting The Rights Of Disabled Prisoners In The United Kingdom. In M. H. Rioux, L. A. Basser, & M. Jones (Eds.), Critical Perspectives on Human Rights and Disability Law (pp. 201-238). Brill Academic Publishers.


**3.2 Phillips, E., Clarke, S., Crofts, S., & Laycock, A. (2010). Exceeding the boundaries of formulaic assessment: innovation and creativity in the law school. The Law Teacher, 44(3), 334-364.


**3.3 Outhwaite, O., Black, R., & Laycock, A. (2008). The Significance of Cost Recovery for the Regulation of Agricultural Health: A Case Study in Pursuing Grounded Theory. Journal of Law and Society, 35(s1), 126-148.


3.4 Withey, C. (forthcoming 2013). Feedback Engagement: Forcing Feed-Forward amongst Law Students. Law Teacher, 47(3).


3.5 Withey, C. (2010). Engaging students through electronic voting - clickers and mobile phone systems. Presented at Engaging Students Through In-class Technology Conference, April 2010, University of Edinburgh.

Details of the impact

Angela Laycock's premise that to be effective legal practitioners must have an understanding of the law's social and political context, its effect on individuals and its weaknesses has led to the development of both a new teaching methodology and research approach which can develop solutions to inadequate legislation and practice in many legal fields. Her work has contributed to the international movement promoting disabled peoples' rights as human rights which culminated in the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2008 and the monitoring the effectiveness of disability law in the UK for the purposes of reform.

Impact 1: New teaching and research methodology
Laycock, Black and Outhwaite were the first to develop a grounded theory methodology approach to empirical research in the field of biosecurity. This was a mixed-method approach involving data collection from stakeholders with open coding using QDA Miner. A presentation at a W. G. Hart Legal Workshop led to an invitation to contribution to the launch of the `Research, Methods and Approaches' section of the Journal of Law and Society [3.3]. Postgraduate teaching at Greenwich of the new empirical research methodology led to findings relating to the effectiveness of legislation that have been used for reform by governmental organisations in Africa and Belize.

The new teaching methodology incorporating commissioned research projects into the undergraduate curriculum has been well received and disseminated through conference participation. The audience at the 2008 International Journal of Clinical Legal Education Conference agreed that the Community project was the first clinical legal research project they had encountered.

Impact 2: Pioneering human rights model of disability and system for monitoring disability law
The DRPI Greenwich-Osgoode Hall Legal Education and Research Project piloted methods of international cooperation between Law schools to evaluate mechanisms for the promotion of the rights of disabled people including the use of video-conferencing and an online forum as well strategies for assessment. DRPI now links Law schools across three continents.

The projects themselves raised awareness of the rights of disabled people being human rights , and contributed to the movement for reform in the UK and internationally. Laycock's chapter on disability law [3.1] was commissioned because, at the time, the Greenwich project team was alone in researching UK disabled prisoners' rights.

Impact 3: Developed model for pro bono undergraduate research projects in partnership with stakeholders in the local community
The University of Greenwich Vulnerable Witness Project (VWP) has raised consciousness locally and nationally regarding disability hate crime in the community. The two year independent, pro bono research project, commissioned by Greenwich Association of Disabled People Centre for Independent Living (GAD) examines police reports of closed cases supplied by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). The final report on its findings will inform the local MPS's policy on treatment of vulnerable disabled witnesses.

Preliminary findings were presented by the VWP team at the British Conference for Undergraduate Research 2013 at Plymouth University while the pedagogical advantages and strategies for pro bono undergraduate projects were presented by Laycock in Plymouth (April 2013) and Greenwich (July 2013) and Laycock's article on assessment strategies for such projects will be published in the December edition of Compass.

Dissemination and Adoption of Innovations for Engagement in the Undergraduate Curriculum

Withey develops strategies to engage students and improve their performance which are robust, popular and easy for other HEIs to reproduce. These include a cast-iron method of getting students to really use feedback; home-made Lego-character films to illustrate key principles in criminal law, and championing use of students' own phones and tablets to vote during lectures instead of cumbersome electronic voting systems (EVSs).

Impact 1: New law curriculum feedback method
A key challenge for all HE teachers is how to get students to use feedback: students are more interested in the grade and sometimes don't even read the teacher's comments. Withey has developed a system that ensures 100% of students engage because the feedback exercise is built into the assessment regime and the grade is only unlocked after the learning has been achieved. Early findings, which suggest substantial improvement in academic performance, have been disseminated to the legal education community [3.4] and presented at two peer reviewed conferences at Oxford (2012) and Cambridge universities (2011). Several institutions have referred to her Feedback Guide for Law Students in their study skills LL.B curriculum, and the Australian National University's Legal Workshop team in teaching the Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice requested a copy as part of their review of teaching and learning.

Impact 2: New visual aid to teaching: `Lego Law' films
Withey's Lego Law films have been viewed by over 20,000 students from 103 different countries since the first film was uploaded to YouTube in March 2012: The channel's success led to an invitation from YouTube to moneterise the films and coverage from the Society of Legal Scholars and Law The `Law Tutor of the Year 2013' winner used it in her final presentation. Universities and colleges share the link with students, and several have embedded the link within their course electronic learning platforms, including Buckinghamshire New University, London Metropolitan University and the University of East London. This allows tutors to present the films in classes and students to view them at leisure.

Impact 3: Using mobile technology in law schools
Withey's research relating to EVS has reached legal institutions nationally and internationally. Several ESTICT community members who were using the "clicker systems" have investigated ways of combining this with mobile technology. A number of universities are now experimenting with the phone system. City University has subscribed to a campus licence for PollEverywhere.

Sources to corroborate the impact

New teaching and research methodology

5.1 Director of Disability Rights Promotion International, York University.
International project Legal Education and Research Project pioneering a human rights model of disability and strategies for monitoring disability law leading to international publication

5.2 Senior Hate Crime Advocate, Greenwich Association for Disabled People Centre for Independent Living.
Development of model to promote pro bono undergraduate research projects to serve the local community

Electronic Voting Research

5.3 Professor of Law and Theory and Director of The Westminster International Law and Theory Centre, School of Law, University of Westminster. Sent by email, 5 April 2011:
Several institutions/ tutors have experimented with mobile phone EVS following Withey's research, including University of Westminster

5.4 Lecturer in Learning Development, LDC, City University. Sent by email 21 March 2010:-.
Following Withey's research with mobile EVS, City University incorporated clicker EVS (Turning point) with Mobile option (Response Ware)

Lego Law

5.5 Barrister, School of Applied Management & Law, Buckinghamshire New University. Sent by email, 30 September 2013:
Many Law Schools and FE colleges have uploaded the YouTube Lego link to their VLEs. As an example, students at Buckingham New University use it regularly, and it is accessed during lectures.